What having the Rugby World Cup on home soil means for brands

With the Rugby World Cup set to kick off in September in host cities across the UK, brands such as O2, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Canon and Toshiba tell Marketing Week how they’re making the most of having the tournament on home soil through local events, city tours, partnerships with retailers and a focus on real-time digital marketing.

The 2015 tournament, the third biggest sporting event in the world, is set to be the “best attended, most viewed, most socially engaged and most competitive Rugby World Cup to date” according to organiser World Rugby.

This represents a massive opportunity for both official sponsors and brands, particularly in the UK, to drive global awareness, something they plan to do through in-store activity with major retailers, real-time and 360 marketing and the launch of major local events.



Heineken UK is investing nearly half of the master brand’s budget in this year’s Rugby World Cup with the launch of a multi-channel campaign titled “It’s Your Call”.

A TV commercial stars rugby legends Jonah Lomu and John Smit while OOH, print, PR, social and digital activity will attempt to target the 4.5 billion people who will watch the tournament globally.

However, the brand is also focusing on dialling the campaign up across the nation and targeting the “fantastic following” that rugby, which it calls a “premium sport”, has in the UK.

It is giving fans the chance to attend the coin toss at the start of each of the tournament’s 48 games through a variety of contests including a “golden bottle” pack promotion, a Web Ellis Cup Trophy Tour and “other stunts that will take place in the UK and around the world”.

It is also launching a Heineken Rugby Studio at Twickenham which will see the likes of former England captain Will Carling host preview and review shows during eight World Cup games.

The videos, which will feature UK and international celebrities as well as the winners of the coin toss competitions, will be launched across Heineken’s digital and social channels with a chance for consumers to live tweet at the hosts.

David Lette, premium brands director for Heineken UK, told Marketing Week: “For the Heineken brand in the UK this is a massive opportunity. It’s a great way to really cement that it’s a premium brand in the UK.”

He added that it is also an opportunity for the brand to strength its relationships with the on-trade.

“We’ve learned through Champions League how to better create partnerships and grow together with retailers,” Lette said, adding that the brand will also have “a lot of visibility in pubs and bars”.

“Throughout the country our customers have gotten behind this, from head office down to a single store or pub,” he said. “We started working towards the campaign two years ago and it’s amazing to see their excitement.”


Coca-Cola Rugby Exchange

The brand has launched a TV ad, OOH advertising, an on-pack rugby ball giveaway promotion and a film featuring Rugby World Cup winners Jason Robinson and Natasha Hunt in an effort to kick off its position as official soft drink, water and sport drinks supplier of the 2015 tournament.

It also hosted a Ball Exchange in London earlier this month where rugby legends Mike Tindall, Thom Evans, Emily Scarratt and Natasha Hunt gave away hundreds of free rugby balls, encouraging consumers to swap their normal summer sports for rugby as part of the brand’s physical activity push.

It will be including tag rugby and fitness sessions in its Parklife initiative, a free sport program that is now live in six big cities across the UK.

Bobby Brittain, GB marketing director, told Marketing Week that while this is the sixth time Coca-Cola has been associated with the Rugby World Cup, the UK tournament has a particular appeal for the brand.

“The biggest opportunity for us is the fact that it’s a national event over 11 cities and 13 different stadiums,” he said. “It gives us that reach of consumer appeal and our customers have got excited too.”

He said that having the tournament on home soil allows the brand to tap into a “sense of local pride” in host cities and towns by activating in-store through on-pack promotions.

“We’ve seen more support with this activity from customers than we’ve seen in a very long time across the entire spectrum,” Brittain added.

“Activity in Tesco started in July for a September tournament – that would be unusual even for a Football World Cup. They’re very much involved and invested.”


o2 round 2


After launching its #WearTheRose campaign in February to mark 20 years as the principal sponsor of England Rugby, O2 wants to push beyond the “core rugby audience” and reach the mass consumer in September by adopting a “complete 360 approach to marketing”.

The brand has launched a TV ad to promote its Wear The Rose Live official team send-off event, which will take place on 9 September at the O2.

The event will give 14,500 fans the chance to meet the team and will feature live performances from Take That, Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro and England Rugby official anthem singer Laura Wright.

Gareth Griffiths, head of sports sponsorship at O2, told Marketing Week that the “core rugby fans” and “big events fans” are the ones it interacts with year round who are interested in sport and watch all major international events.

However, he said that with a host nation Rugby World Cup, the mass consumer audience will be also become interested come September.

“We’ll bring in different elements of the campaign at different times to hit those different audiences,” he said, adding that a mass consumer campaign will kick off in September.

The brand will release activity on digital and OOH and will also use its partnership with Sky Sports to release real-time footage directly onto Twitter.

Griffiths said it will also integrate the rugby campaign with its other sponsorships, such as its O2 music venue and music channels.

“It provides us the unique opportunity to have all channels firing on all cylinders across the marketing mix,” Griffiths said.

“The fact that we have a host nation tournament in this country is a once in a generation opportunity. We have a long standing relationship with England Rugby so we have a big responsibility. We feel it’s our job as a brand with the scale that we have to galvanise the country behind the England Rugby team.”


Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 15.59.46

The brand is hoping to engage with both rugby fans and professional photographers during its first year as official sponsor of the tournament through a partnership with Getty Images, which will see it produce a series of 360 images capturing the entire stadium during major matches.

This will give fans the chance to spot themselves in the crowd and tag themselves on social media while the brand will also offer fans who submit the best photographs of the rugby to shadow a Getty Images photographer at a RWC 2015 training session.

A Canon-branded digital image gallery will also go live on the RWC website, while a collaboration with rugby fan Bear Grylls and Getty’s leading rugby photographer Dave Rogers will see it create a series of videos offering behind the scenes footage and photography hints and tips.

Cyprian da Costa, brand communications director for Canon Europe, said the sponsorship is “an obvious next step for us as the sport reaches unprecedented levels of popularity around the world”.

He added that images play “a vital role in capturing the unmatched excitement and emotion of global sports”.


TRWC-009While 2015 is the third consecutive year of Rugby World Cup sponsorship for the brand, the tournament will see a “slightly stronger emphasis” on its B2B products and uses, which it claims have “traditionally maintained strong links to sport, especially as the role of technology in sport continues to develop in terms of business operations and improving sporting performance”.

Sarah Dickinson, head of PR for Toshiba Europe, told Marketing Week: “Consumers elements are still important and play a part within our activation – for example we are giving away tickets via social competitions – but the main goal for us is to maximise the positive impact of the sponsorship to our B2B audience.”

She said the brand is using “high-profile talent from the world of rugby to deliver quality content to fans” and will also launch PR, marcomms and social media activity.

She added that as rugby grows in popularity the partnership gives the brand an opportunity to “tell a positive story” to a greater audience.

“Obviously there is significant scope to interact much more closely with customers and partners here in the UK given England’s role as host nation,” Dickinson said.

“Undoubtedly a great number of British rugby fans are also businessmen and women, so there is a strong ready-made audience for us to reach in the UK.

Winning the brand battle

It is clear that official sponsors Heineken, Coca-Cola, and Canon have a major opportunity to leverage the power of the World Cup in order to drive awareness.

However, Misha Sher, head of sport at MediaCom EMEA, says that it may not be official RWC sponsors who win the brand battle.

“Emotion is what drives affinity. UK brands should be looking at creating content which inspires and involves fans of the home nations,” he explains.

“Rather than targeting die-hard rugby fans, the focus should be on all sports fans,” he adds, echoing O2’s strategy to expand its reach to the mass consumer.

“Events like the World Cup have the ability to attract millions of fans who don’t regularly follow the sport.”

However, he added that the proliferation of digital channels and “second screens” has meant more opportunities to engage with fans, something Heineken seems to be targeting most directly with the launch of its Heineken Rugby Studio.

”There is always a big spike in conversation and engagement when major events like the World Cup come around,” Sher said.

“The question brands should be asking themselves is how they can enhance fan experience prior, during, and after the games. The most successful brands plan their content strategy well in advance, often anticipating the big moments to put themselves at the heart of the conversation.”


ITV talks up rugby’s appeal over football to advertisers as its profits rise 25%

Thomas Hobbs

Despite its pre-tax profits increasing by 25% to £391m, ITV saw viewing figures fall by 4% in the first half of 2015. However its chief executive Adam Crozier insisted the commercial channel was continuing to deliver an “unparalleled deal” for advertisers and that the Rugby World Cup would help ITV to “outperform the market” in the second half of the year.